Catalonia, The Costa Brava and Tossa de Mar

Tossa de Mar Costa Brava Postcard

So, Roses was a disappointment, mostly because I had high expectations of the place but today we were going to drive to the south of the Costa Brava to the holiday resort of Tossa de Mar and if I had high hopes for Roses and found it to be rather a let-down I had no such optimism today because I was absolutely certain that I was going to find everything that I thought I disliked about the Spanish Costa resorts and I was ready to snigger and sneer at a place I was positive would be nasty and sleazy.

It was only a short drive to Tossa but it was much more attractive than I had expected as we swooped like a Spanish Imperial Eagle along a treacherous corniche as we followed a precarious coast road with green pine forests on one side and the dazzling blue of the Mediterranean on the other until we reached the seaside resort and found an edge of town car park.

As we walked into the town past the excavations of a Roman villa it slowly began to dawn on me that I was going to be in for a shock and that I just may have to eat my words about tacky Tossa.  Where Roses had been untidy, Tossa was immaculate, where Roses was vulgar, Tossa was charming and where Roses was made of concrete, Tossa was traditional and whitewashed and I was obliged to quickly readjust my preconceived and rather ignorant perception.

The narrow streets were vibrant, the shops were tasteful and the restaurants looked inviting and we made our way through them towards the seafront and the beaches and suddenly and without warning we emerged from the modern commercial centre and we were at the entrance to the old medieval walled town.

The “Vila Vella Enceinte” is the only example of a fortified medieval town still standing on the Catalan coast and its present unspoilt appearance dates back to the end of the fourteenth century. It still has the entire original perimeter with battlemented stone walls, four turrets and three cylindrical towers with parapets. At the highest point, where the lighthouse stands now was originally, until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the castle of the Abbot of the Monastery Santa Maria de Ripoll, the territorial Lord of the town.

The site was declared a national historic monument in 1931 and I really wasn’t expecting this as we walked the walls and through narrow streets of cobbles and stone houses where plants with exuberant and effervescent blooms draped gaily from every windowsill and balcony, red geraniums like volcanic lava and white roses spilling like cooling foam, until we reached the very top with a view of the town on one side with its imposing parish church and the rugged pine studded coastline on the other.

As we sat at the top of the climb and admired the views in all directions I reminded myself that in future I should be careful not to be too hasty in forming an opinion of a place and then we walked back down the steep streets, past the pretty houses and back through one of the wall gates and then to the seafront where we stopped for a while and ordered a San Miguel and enjoyed watching the people walking back and forth along the promenade.

We were going to drive to Lloret now but for some reason decided against it so instead we steered the car out of the car park and made our way north along the coastline instead.

After the demanding coastal road we arrived first in Sant Feliu de Guixois, a busy town but with a fine, rather sedate sandy beach stretching away in both directions north and south and with a sheltered bay where we stopped for a while and swam in the Mediterranean that we shared with a beach full of mostly local holidaymakers.

And then we carried on to Palamos which we drove through quickly on account of the prevalence of high rise concrete apartments of hotels that immediately reminded us of Roses and eventually we arrive in mid afternoon in Palafrugell and I think I must have got lost and confused somewhere here because I found industrial estates where I was expecting fishing villages tucked into impenetrable coves and we convinced ourselves that after Tossa de Mar everywhere else was most likely to be a disappointment today so having had enough of the surf we headed inland towards the turf.

As we drove away from the coast and into the green forests and fields I was glad that I had visited the Costa Brava and had my opinions readjusted because on the whole I had found the region to be delightful and although Norman Lewis wouldn’t agree with me not entirely spoilt and destroyed by tourism and certainly nothing like as awful as the Costa Blanca and the Costa Del Sol.

Costa Brava Catalonia Spain


11 responses to “Catalonia, The Costa Brava and Tossa de Mar

  1. It looks like a gorgeous coastline.


  2. I had a few childhood holidays in Estartit, which had a lovely sandy beach and some good restaurants. I’d consider going back, and would give Tossa a chance after your glowing review – cheers!


  3. Thanks Andrew for another nice piece.

    Had you talked to me about Tossa, I would have told you that I had adored the place when I first visited back in 1985.

    (Not least because in those days I still had a libido, and all the shapely young women sunbathing topless, were quite an eye-opener!)

    Glad to see that it has kept its charm.

    The problem with so many of my fellow Brits is this: they are dreadful snobs. And the very THOUGHT of bumping into a neighbour or workmate at a resort, sends them into paroxysms of rage.

    I adore Benidorm in Spain – just like I adore Albufeira in Portugal – precisely because I can think for myself, and could not care LESS if some intellectual pygmies consider me a chav.

    Dai Woosnam
    Grimsby, UK.


  4. Good points Dai – I was blown away by Benidorm when I last visited (2008) – What a location, what a vision, what a story!
    I once bumped into my next door neighbour in the same hotel in Menorca and a year later a family from the same street in Disney World in Florida!


  5. Hi Andrew ! Your Spain posts are so vivid and informative as always.
    Thank you for your recent like.It’s very much appreciated.If you don’t mind I would like you to have a second look at my “Dining out at themed restaurants … ” post,just to see my comment and answer to your like.
    I don’t want to post it here because it is a bit personal and I am dead sure it will spoil the image of your wondrous Spain post.
    Thanks kindly


    • Hi Doda, I am sorry that this loss made you so sad, I was wondering where you were because I always enjoy your posts. The heat wave appears to be over in England! King George II allegedly said that an English Summer consists of two fine days and a thunderstorm and this year he was absolutely right!


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